Is it just me or is life starting to feel a little normal again?
Is it just me or is life starting to feel a little normal again?
Summer is in full swing, restaurants are open for business, and vaccines are now pretty easy to come by.
The pandemic is far from over, but still there’s a subtle ease to life again that feels good.
Perhaps it was this week’s announcement that the federal government would be moving forward with reopening the Canada-US border in early-August.
Or the news that Ontario’s colleges and universities would be returning to in-person classes this fall.
Things are inching back to a pre-pandemic status quo.
The Toronto real estate market, having boomed for the better part of the pandemic, is finally taking a rest. Things are quiet. It’s lovely.
Which begs the question: what comes next?
While most experts agree that it was a combination of low interest rates, pent-up demand, and changing buyer priorities that joined forces to drive sales to record levels, even through multiple stay-at-home orders, the undercurrent of it all has been something entirely more structural.
A healthy balanced market is when, simply put, there is an equal level of buyers and sellers.
When there are more sellers than buyers, you have a “buyer’s market.”
When you have more buyers than sellers, you have a “seller’s market.”
Broadly speaking, with the exception of a few blips along the way, Toronto has been a seller’s market for as long as I have been in the business.
In the neighbourhoods popular with upsizing young families, bidding wars are simply the norm.
And why is that? Some might say that it’s because of the widely adopted practice of underpricing as a means of driving multiple offers.
And while, yes, that certainly brings more buyers to the table and thus adds an overt layer of competition, that’s not it. It’s just a symptom of the broader issue.
And this issue is this: if we had sufficient supply in the city of Toronto to meet demand, our current market conditions would be vastly different.
They wouldn’t be spilling out into the secondary markets around us.
The pandemic just shone a light on what has been a mounting reality: our population has grown faster than our housing supply and our government has failed to address it.
At 1.8 million homes behind the G7 average, Canada falls dead last in the number of housing units per 1,000 residents.
Frustratingly, the top-down solutions to this impending crisis have been interruptions to the demand cycle: playing with interest rates, tightening lending qualifications, introducing non-resident speculation and vacancy taxes.
These are Band-Aids. At best they are tools to be used to slow things down while the real solutions come down the pike. We need density. We need intensification. We need thoughtful, strategic building policies that marry environmental responsibility with pragmatic solutions to sprawl.
Instead, the most recent federal budget promised an additional $2.5B over five years to address affordable housing via their Rapid Housing Initiative.
This is a drop in the bucket.
We need expedience not hand wringing.
If government flipped a switch tomorrow it would still take four to five years to see the housing units come to market. The time was yesterday.
So, for those wondering what comes next in our real estate market, it’s a safe bet that once people have enjoyed their summer of reprieve from the strange pandemic reality we find ourselves in, the market will reawaken.
It will simply have to in order to meet the return of students and the backlog of immigration produced by almost 18 months of closed borders. The demand-driven rental and condo sectors that have “softened” and “balanced” these past months will surely surge.
And it was predictable. Market forces, while undeniably complicated and nuanced, have a few inescapable fundamentals – until we prioritize sufficient supply to meet demand, housing unaffordability will be the norm. That part isn’t rocket science.
On Twitter: @brynnlackie
When it comes to luxury real estate, location is key. From properties with French alpine to Pacific Ocean views, these luxury listings take advantage of their picturesque settings.
Location: Courchevel Le Praz, France
This wood-filled chalet overlooks the ski slopes from an expansive living room with a fireplace and an adjacent south-facing terrace.
The six en-suite bedrooms all have terraces. A closed-in area features a pool and spa, along with sauna and massage room.
Location: Aspen, Colorado
Price: $8.3 million
This ranchette home, remodeled in 2017, sits on a hillside overlooking Brush Creek Valley, the Snowmass ski area and Hunter Creek. The main home, which features antique 19th-century French Provincial/Mediterranean doors, has three bedrooms and 2.5-bathrooms. Features include a pantry with a custom wine cellar. A large outdoor entertaining area comes with a wraparound stone deck.
A two-story accessory dwelling unit, built in 2005, houses an art studio and kitchen on the first floor and one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen on the second. A three-car garage comes with a full bath.
Location: Son Termes, Bunyola, Mallorca, Spain
This villa sits surrounded by nature on the island of Mallorca. The 12-bedroom, nine-bathroom stone residence has classic Spanish architecture, shaded outdoor sitting areas and a modern swimming pool.
Location: Santa Monica, California
Price: $7.75 million
Designed and built in 1910 by architect Robert D. Farquhar, this three-bedroom home sits just off the Santa Monica Bluffs, with views to the Pacific Ocean. The home has been reimagined with luxurious finishes, including white oak flooring and custom automated shades. The kitchen features custom two-tone Italian cabinetry and stone countertops and Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Miele appliances. The bathrooms include luxe fixtures by Brizo, Rohl, Newport Brass and Toto.
This home features a patio and the ground level and a deck on the second floor comprising more than 1,000 square feet of private outdoor space.
FGP Swiss & Alps, Hilton & Hyland, Inmobiliaria Rimontgo and Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate are exclusive members of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.
A Lower Mainland real estate agent has been ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in fines after being found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to a rent-to-own scheme allegedly aimed at financially vulnerable homeowners.
More than three years after B.C.’s real estate council first suspended Kevindeep Singh Bratch’s licence under “urgent circumstances,” Bratch has also been told he’ll have to wait another year before he can apply to get his licence back.
A disciplinary committee found that Bratch committed conduct unbecoming of a real estate agent after a hearing that saw testimony from a man who claimed Bratch acted like a “saviour,” while negotiating a deal to purchase a $2.1 million house for less than a quarter of its worth.
“Bratch’s conduct … constitutes conduct unbecoming because it targets members of the public who are in stressful positions, have limited options and feel pressured into agreeing to any terms to keep their family homes,” the council said in submissions that resulted in the penalties.
“In these circumstances, Mr. Bratch was looking to make an investment and was driven by profit. The homeowners were driven by the desire to keep their homes.”
The case was one of the last handled by the real estate council before the introduction of a new regulatory authority in B.C. The B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) now oversees real estate agents, mortgage brokers, credit unions, trust and insurance companies and pension plans.
The penalties — which include a $45,000 fine and $50,000 to pay for the cost of the investigation — were announced on the new regulator’s website this week.
The BCFSA will handle the file going forward.
Bratch could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the regulator said he has appealed the decision to the Financial Services Tribunal.
The rulings make clear that Bratch’s activities were not illegal.
The real estate council claimed they were “disadvantageous” to owners who “did not receive independent legal advice or separate agency representation, and either believed that Mr. Bratch was acting on their behalf, or were at least confused as to his role in the transaction.”
The witness who claimed Bratch came across as a “saviour” told the council that he approached Bratch after receiving unsolicited mail claiming the real estate agent was a foreclosure specialist.
At the time, the witness — whose name is redacted in the decision — was experiencing financial difficulties; his mother had passed away two years earlier and his bank had started foreclosure proceedings on his $2.1 million childhood home.
According to the decision, the two reached a deal that saw Bratch and his wife purchase the home for $500,000 and then agree to rent it back to the former owner for $4,000 a month with an option to buy back the property for $600,000 four months later.
“The language was like this is the best case scenario, this is what you have to do in order to make sure that the bank doesn’t take your home,” the witness told the disciplinary committee.
“I’m walking into this, like Kevin [Bratch], is in my corner, he is not somebody who, who is on the other side of the table in an agreement.”
The deal ultimately ended up in court after Bratch and his wife sued the homeowner, who responded by claiming the deal was “unconscionable.”
All three parties agreed to dismiss the legal action in December 2017.
The real estate council’s disciplinary committee considered evidence related to three rent-to-own deals involving Bratch.
In one case, Bratch evicted an elderly Maple Ridge couple on Thanksgiving 2017 after taking them to the Residential Tenancy Branch, over unpaid rent on a home they agreed to sell for $233,000 less than its assessed value to a company Bratch and his wife controlled .
The council faulted Bratch for failing to disclose the nature of his relationship with the company, and for failing to recommend that the couple get independent legal advice.
That situation led to the interest of local media. It also resulted in a lawsuit that was settled in an agreement that saw the couple buy their home back from Bratch for roughly the same price he originally paid them.
In the third case, the council says Bratch paid $154,000 less than the value of a property assessed at $869,000. He rented it back to the original owners for $4,300 a month.
“When we first signed this deal I expressed concern as to whether or not… [we] would be able to execute the re-purchase option after just one year, to which you assured me, and I quote, ‘I’m not a monster, I’m here to make a return on my investment, if you can’t buy it back after one year I would extent it [sic] another year,'” the original homeowner said in an email to Bratch, shared with the council.
The original owners could not buy the home back in a year and ended up renting on a month-by-month basis before moving out in December 2018.
According to the decision, Bratch now resides in the property. It was assessed at $915,000 in 2019.
Bratch represented himself at the hearing, disputing the allegations against him. He claimed he had advised the elderly couple to get a lawyer and was clear with his clients about the transactions.
According to the decision, he described himself as wearing “different hats.”
“So I provide homeowners with the different options and again I do wear the different hats,” Bratch is quoted as saying.
“So I would be wearing a mortgage broker’s hat, a real estate agent’s hat and during that time you’re allowed to be … licensed as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent at the same time.”
In addition to the penalties and suspension, Bratch has been ordered to take an “Ethics in Business Practice” course offered by the Real Estate Institute.
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